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« Margi Young 2 | Main | ... And What Era Would You Like to Visit? »

May 11, 2006

Living in Another Era

Donald Pittenger writes

I suspect that most folks, at one time or another, wonder what life would have been like if they'd lived in another country, in another time or, most likely, both.

Of course you could never have been you if you hadn't been conceived at the exact time you were by the exact-same egg and sperm. Otherwise, something would have differed -- perhaps only the shape of your nose -- and your life slowly would have diverged from the path it actually took.

Nevertheless, it can be fun to speculate.

Knowing that it's all rather pointless, I don't dwell on it -- haven't given the matter much serious thought. So take what follows for what little it's worth.

When I was a teenager, I became fascinated by the Roaring Twenties. I once read a humor novel (I forget the title and author) set in the Twenties college scene. The hero was named Joe College and the heroine was called Betty Coed, natch. They did all the fun football and frat house parties stuff. Boy that seemed neat!

Nowadays, being a barely-detectable bit more mature (those frat house parties with Betty still seem pretty neat), I suppose I'd prefer to live when and where a great empire was at its peak. Besides peace and prosperity (away from the frontiers, anyhow), there would be lots of interesting cultural and intellectual activity. (Part of my fantasy is that I'd be roughly the same relative socioeconomic status that I am here and now -- no danger of being a galley-slave).

So maybe it would be Roman times: late Republic or early Empire, let's say. Or in England between the time of the Crimean War and the Great War. An alternative English example would be London in the time of Dr. Johnson.

On further thought, if cultural/intellectual considerations were less important and quality of daily life was a leading criterion, then living in an imperial province or protectorate would do. Examples might include Provence, Cisalpine Italy or Greece during the Roman times just mentioned.

What are some of your picks?



posted by Donald at May 11, 2006


The US in the 80's seemed pretty neat to me...

Posted by: Nigel on May 11, 2006 1:44 PM

I've given this a lot of thought myself. I would set my time machine to three periods:

1) Ancient Athens between 480 B.C. and 430 B.C.

2) The Veneto region of northern Italy in the first half of the 16th century.

3) France between 1660 and 1740.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on May 11, 2006 2:12 PM

Any time when you could drink from a cold mountain stream, sense the desert silence and breathe genuinely fresh air.

Posted by: citrus on May 11, 2006 2:25 PM

Vienna, between say 1880 and just prior to WWI

Posted by: Gerald on May 11, 2006 3:12 PM

Do I get to bring good dentistry, anaesthetics, antibiotics, and deodorant with me?

I like fantasizing about spending time in various eras -- 19th century bohemian France? 18th century London or Edinborough, Lady Murasaki's court, being a free jungle person ... But then I'll read or watch reports about what conditions were actually like. Bathing once a year. Perpetually abcessed jaws. No teeth left in the mouth by the age of 30. Unexplained fevers that kill, etc. The body-stink of people in other eras must have been enough to kill too. How did they ever manage to procreate? Anyway, it all puts me off a bit. Still, fun to imagine spending time in other eras, even if it's in a santized, fantasized version of those eras ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 11, 2006 3:26 PM

What Michael said.

Antibiotics, anaesthesia, radiology, indoor plumbing, central heating, the internet, clean water ... .

The USA, now. This is the golden age of health, wealth and opportunity.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 11, 2006 5:24 PM

I'm a medievalist, so I'd love to live during the late Antique/early medieval period in France. Pre-Charlemagne or during Charlemagne. I would just like to know exactly what happened, since we know so little about the time period. Of course, I'd have to be rich, because being poor in any time period is awful.

Posted by: Greg Burgas on May 11, 2006 5:24 PM

The Roaring Twenties.

(I haven't reached maturity.)

Posted by: rodrigo de lemos on May 11, 2006 6:15 PM

Do I get to be rich, upper-class, of an established family not threatened by a rival? Or will it be a random position, possibly field-slave?

Posted by: bob mcmanus on May 11, 2006 7:28 PM

I'd absolutely love to visit (not necessarily live in) two periods:

Florence in 1300 A.D., when both Giotto and Dante were in residence there. In addition to buying those two a beer, I'd love to have seen how pre-Renaissance Florence, an industrial city with a far larger population and with a far more dynamic economy than its Renaissance avatar, worked, as the Florentines of that era were really making it up as they went along.

Likewise, I'd love to have seen Amsterdam in roughly 1600 A.D. while the Dutch were fighting the Spanish, creating a world empire, and developing the first modern economy (to say nothing of inventing the microscope and the thermometer)--a good chance to catch the modern world 'in ovo'.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on May 11, 2006 7:30 PM

Any time-place where they still had topless, voluptuous, under-30 girls with fans and grapes. Only assuming I get to be one of the alpha-dogs in said era, of course.

Posted by: Agnostic on May 11, 2006 7:35 PM

There is only now.

Posted by: Jonathan on May 11, 2006 7:50 PM

If I could combine in one blissfull summer at the seaside when I was 14 three unforgettable weeks of my 18th winter...and make it doesn't matter what costumes we wore or what language we spoke, or even what was it we talked about.

Posted by: Tat on May 11, 2006 8:04 PM

Any time-place where they still had topless, voluptuous, under-30 girls with fans and grapes.

I am sure there is a website that caters to this taste.

Posted by: adf on May 12, 2006 1:55 PM

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